Queens' students having a conversation with Will Massey's (Team Yap 07) Junior English class at Yap High School.
Thursday March 26 – I need to describe our last two days on Yap. As I mentioned in Lagoon Letter 6, they were a huge bag of mixed emotions.
Monday started by visiting Will Massey’s (Queens ’08) class at Yap High School. Will is the Chair of the English Department there and teaches Honors English (among other classes). We visited his class last week and had a marvelous time sharing experiences. Our students wanted to know if the Yapese highschoolers wanted to go to college (“Yes.”), what they did after school (“Nothing!”), and if they had cell phones (“Of course!!”). The Yapese students wanted to know if Queens students really studied (“Yes.”), what they didn’t like about Yap (“Nothing!”), and if they would ever come back (“Of course!!). Monday’s visit was less structured. Megan and Ray brought supplies to decorate the girls’ nails, which proved a wonderful way of generating fun conversation. The real star of the morning (surprisingly) was Ben, who has a career in cosmetology if he wants it. The hour was fast, loud, and fun.
Yap students preparing for the traditional stick dance.
Monday afternoon, we had one of the best experiences of the entire trip so far. We visited the Gagil Elementary School graduation ceremony, featuring many traditional dances. On the school grounds, the girls started with a set of sitting dances. A caller sings out the story and the “dancers” – all sitting in a single line facing the audience – follow along with synchronized hand motions. They are all dressed in traditional costume of hibiscus-fiber skirts, coconut oil and turmeric, and head bands made of plants. Next up were the boys who marched in wearing traditional thuws (or loin cloths) and joined the girls in a “stick dance.” This one is my favorite. It’s like a square dance, but with everyone swinging bamboo sticks. When adults do it, they swing so hard the sticks break and new ones are thrown in from support people on the side. Like I said, it’s my favorite. Watching these dances made us reflect on the rich history and culture of the Yapese.
Monday evening was our Going Away Reception, hosted by the Division of Land Resources (our official host agency), the Yap Visitors Bureau, the Historic Preservation Office, and the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. All of the last three agencies were our partners on our work projects. Fine speeches were made and heartfelt thanks were expressed. The students and faculty received many gifts from our counterparts: t-shirts, a miniature Yap state flag, a special “Smokey the Fruit Bat” bandana (produced by our friend Dr. Margie Falanruw, Director of the Yap Institute of Natural Science, to promote fire prevention on Yap), and other small tokens. After the gifts, we had a veritable feast of local foods: fresh sashimi, taro, cooked fish, salads, and breadfruit. We laughed and told stories of our Yap adventures to each other. It was a great evening that made everyone remember why they signed up for this trip: the chance to travel deeply into a culture and experience it on its own terms.
Alvaro and Amy showing off the tuna they caught (along with Jesse) on their boat ride.
On Tuesday, the entire Team Micronesia 2011 enjoyed a boat tour around the island (except Drs. Pillar and Perkins, who spent the morning paying electric and water bills, etc.). They went snorkeling and saw sea turtles. They went fishing and Amy, Jesse, and Alvaro caught tuna “island style” – that is, using nothing but a line and lure (no pole!). Everyone also got sun burned – a not-so-gentle reminder that we are in the tropics! Upon our return, we frantically organized, packed, and cleaned our house. When our chores were done, we had a few hours left to visit with the many people coming by to wish us well. So, we sat and laughed and listened and talked until 11:30 pm came, bringing with it the trucks transporting us to the airport.
And, at 2:30 am, we left Yap. As we sat in our seats, we stared out the plane windows at the little island we called home — incredibly glad we came, sad it was time to leave, and hopeful the rest of the trip will be as wonderful.
Team Yap 2011